Bipartisan Senate farm bill is a better way forward for families that struggle with food insecurity

Last month, we shared our concerns about the farm bill proposal being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill proposes deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) that could put 97,000 Oklahomans at risk of going hungry.  While that bill did not pass, 198 members of Congress, including all members of the Oklahoma delegation, did vote for it, and it could still be reconsidered very soon. But there’s good news as well: the Senate has proposed their own version of the farm bill, and it’s much better!

The House farm bill would be devastating for working families

The House farm bill proposal (H.R. 2) is a partisan and deeply flawed bill. The bill was passed out of the House Committee on Agriculture with only Republican votes, and it failed on the House floor in May. It proposes to increase work requirements for SNAP recipients and impose harsh and unforgiving penalties on those who fail to meet those new requirements. The result of these difficult-to-meet requirements would be 2 million struggling American families, including children, seniors, and veterans, going hungry. In total, this proposal would cut SNAP by nearly $19 billion over the next decade.

This punitive approach will not only harm working families, it would also make SNAP far less efficient. SNAP is one of our most powerful and effective anti-poverty programs. When families experiencing hard times are able to cover a basic need like putting food on the table, they can get back on their feet more quickly. Last year, over 850,000 Oklahomans used SNAP at some point in the year. And most adults who get help from SNAP and can work are, in fact, working. In fact, SNAP supports work by filling the gap for workers with low wages and unsteady hours.  The increased requirements and harsh penalties in the House proposal are unnecessary. They won’t put more people to work and will leave more people hungry.

The Senate’s bipartisan farm bill is better policy

The Senate’s farm bill (S. 3042), proposed by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, is a joint effort between committee chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) and ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). This proposal recognizes that SNAP works in providing invaluable help to working families who are still struggling to get by, and proposes proactive steps to strengthen SNAP and make meaningful investments in job training and education programs.

Most importantly, the Senate proposal does not cut SNAP benefits or place onerous and unnecessary new requirements on working families who use SNAP to keep food on the table. The Senate bill would allow more states to participate in the employment and training pilot program created in the last bipartisan farm bill and would dedicate more money to the programs. These test programs will allow us to find the best way to support work for those who are currently struggling to get by instead of simply cutting benefits and forcing families to do without as they try to find a well-paying job.

Though SNAP fraud and error rates are low, the Senate proposal would help move the error rate closer to zero by creating a national interstate data match system, allowing states to identify those few cases of families temporarily receiving help from two states (most often because they have moved and their former state has been slow to update their records). This improved national database would make that process of reporting a move much timelier, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will save over $500 million over the next ten years.

What happens next?

Both the House and Senate are expected to vote on their version of the farm bill very soon. Call your representative and tell them to vote no on H.R. 2 – these harsh cuts are not the right path forward for Oklahoma. In addition, call your senators and ask them to vote against any amendments to the Senate bill (S. 3042) that would cut SNAP or add new, onerous requirements. SNAP works and it’s Congress’s job to protect it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Courtney Cullison joined OK Policy in March 2017 as a policy analyst focusing on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

One thought on “Bipartisan Senate farm bill is a better way forward for families that struggle with food insecurity

  1. Thank you for this important and clear update. Hopefully the Senate version will keep lawmakers from making a misstep with the house version.

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